Identifying JB55, the 19th Century Connecticut Vampire: from Y-STR Typing and Surname Prediction to SNP Profiling and Genetic Genealogy

Thursday November 3rd, 2022 // 11:40 am - 12:05 pm // Woodrow Wilson Ballroom

The identity of JB55 has been a mystery ever since his grave was discovered in 1990 near Griswold, Connecticut. JB was a middle-aged male who suffered from tuberculosis, an inexplicable disease in the early 1800s before the age of modern medicine. JB was treated as a vampire in death so that he could not return from the dead to infect the living. There were no historical records documenting the graves of JB or his wife and child, IB and NB. Yet his initials provided a clue to his identity that could possibly be solved with DNA. In this presentation, we cover the Y-STR typing and surname prediction that were used to determine the putative name of JB. We then focus on novel SNP capture and shotgun sequencing data that were used for genetic genealogy, ancestry, and phenotype prediction. Imputed SNP profiles were searched in GEDmatch, and four kits shared over 75 cM with JB55. We traced two of the matches’ pedigrees to Barber ancestors living in New England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, lending support to the surname predicted through Y-STR analysis. In addition to the results from JB55, we also present SNP data from a separate individual from the Griswold cemetery, which we found to be JB’s 3rd degree relative. Both JB and his “cousin” share a match in GEDmatch, which could be the critical link to confirming JB’s identity.


Private: Charla Marshall

SNA International, LLC, contractor supporting the AFMES-AFDIL

Charla Marshall is Chief of the Emerging Technologies Section at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System’s Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFMES-AFDIL). She is a molecular anthropologist by training and has a background in ancient DNA. Dr. Marshall’s group develops and validates new MPS/NGS methods to improve DNA-assisted identification of missing US service members.

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